Recently I am hearing about extremely sad acts of bullying at schools which makes me sick to my stomach. I ask myself, ” Are we as parents doing enough to reduce the risk of our child becoming a bully”. Through this process I decided on one value to focus on without overwhelming our little girl’s development. After researching I chose the value of EMPATHY!
Luckily for us, we see characteristics of empathy from Mckenzie. Her sense of self-preservation was short-lived. I don’t believe that empathy is a characteristic that you are born with.I believe it’s encouraged to practice at an early age (opinion here…would love to hear your thoughts on nature vs. nurture)
These are the 3 strategies we have adopted in our household. We encourage these strategies to ensure it’s a part of Mckenzie’s daily routine.
Demonstrate empathetic behaviour
Mckenzie models our behavior even when we don’t think she is paying attention. She is constantly absorbing the world around her. I believe it our responsibility to show them how to act kind to others in our daily interactions.
A typical daily example of this is “If I have a stressful day at work, my husband asks if I need to talk about it while I drink a cup of tea he has made for me because he know it’s one of the things that helps sooth me after a long day at the office.”
Help your children through experiences of conflict, its part of life and to skill them with conflict handling tools at an early age is setting the foundation for surviving adulthood. Teach them to talk about differences and help them to see the situation from another person’s perspective. This will allow them to learn to compromise when possible. This shows that its ok to have differing views and we need to respect people for it. The vision is to equip them with the understanding that conflicting views is resolved without demeaning or belittling the other person.
Reward empathetic behaviour
Rewarding the desired behaviour is a great teaching tool. An explanation accompanying the reward will increase the likelihood of future empathetic acts as they know that we acknowledged the act of kindness and shows them that they responded in a manner that was helpful and sensitive to another person’s feelings. Keep praise concise by describing what you saw, name the emotions and praise the act of help. Example, Sarah looked sad when her lunch fell. I saw you smile at her and offer her a slice of your sandwich. It looked like you made her feel happy.
The likelihood of an empathetic child bullying other children is very low. They will also be more likely to stand up for another child who is teased, or even physically assaulted. Take every opportunity you can to show your child that they have the power to make someone’s day better by showing compassion and acts of kindness.
Teach them to help/volunteer
Allow your child circumstances that encourage empathy. Find ways to volunteer to do community service and donate clothes, books and toys. The more removed a child is from children’s socioeconomic status, the easier it is for them to look the other way. Helping those who live without homes, food, clothes and toys/books shows them that not everyone lives like them and they are not fortunate to have the basics. They learn the feeling of empathy and act of compassion to improve someone’s quality of life.